SAG Anti-Merger Attorney Reveals Claims to Hollywood Sentinel

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Opponents of the proposed merger between one of Hollywood’s most powerful unions- The Screen Actors Guild, and the smaller American Federation of Television & Radio Artists are asking for a federal court order to block the merger balloting.

The action was filed Wednesday in Los Angeles, with more than five dozen SAG members- including Martin Sheen, Ed Harris, Nancy Sinatra and former SAG presidents Ed Asner, Kathleen Nolan and Alan Rosenberg- as plaintiffs.

According to Hollywood trade publication Variety and other sources today, a number of opponents of the proposed merger between the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists (AFTRA) are asking for a federal court order to block the merger balloting, via a class action suit.

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According to Variety, the action was filed Wednesday in Los Angeles, with the names listed of more than five dozen SAG members, including such notable stars as Martin Sheen, Ed Harris, and Nancy Sinatra, as well as former SAG presidents Ed Asner, Kathleen Nolan and Alan Rosenberg- as plaintiffs.

The suit claims that SAG is attempting to merge with AFTRA “without conducting the necessary due diligence” which will leave union members in a position of risk. As reported further in Variety, “the four-count civil complaint was filed against the guild, SAG national executive director David White, SAG president Ken Howard, SAG secretary treasurer Amy Aquino, and SAG Vice Presidents’ Ned Vaughn, Mike Hodge and David Hartley-Margolin.”

“We believe that this suit is completely without merit and we will vigorously defend all claims in court. We are confident that our actions are appropriate and consistent with the law and our own rules of procedure.

Any suggestion that the members have not been fully and fairly informed is preposterous. We have scheduled more than fifty informational meetings across the country, have posted all of the merger documents on the website for over four weeks, and we have afforded the merger opponents the right to send an opposition statement at the unions’ expense as part of the referendum package.

This lawsuit is a clear attempt at circumventing the will of the membership. It is disappointing that this group seems dedicated to preventing their fellow members from exercising their democratic right to vote on their futures through the union’s fair and established referendum process which is already underway. This filing is simply a public relations stunt that follows a clear pattern by some of the plaintiffs of filing unsuccessful lawsuits against their own union. We do not believe that the members will be fooled.”

What is referred to as the will of the membership by SAG, is of course- only the membership that are voting for the merger to occur. Other critics against the merger claim that many young SAG members are not educated with regard to the issues, have not taken the time to learn the issues that will affect them when they are older- that may affect older members now, and further, that some SAG members may fear backlash and blacklisting if they go against the leadership of their own union.

Film producer, talent manager, and Hollywood Sentinel publisher Bruce Edwin spoke exclusively with the head attorney leading the class action lawsuit against SAG today- Mr. David B. Casselman, Senior Partner of Wasserman, Comden, Casselman & Esensten, L.L.P. in Tarzana, California, to understand more exactly what the anti-merger side is stating. The following is that dialogue.

Bruce Edwin: David, thank you for speaking today. What is the basic gist of this suit and the main illegality that you are stating?

David Casselman: We are asking the court to block the 2010 merger vote, based on unsupported promises made with no due diligence and no legitimate studies. SAG never crunched numbers to assure that pensions would be safe with this merger. If SAG had done such due diligence, we would have all seen the studies,

they would be on bus stops, they would be in Times Square.

Bruce Edwin: I see.

David Casselman: SAG Members are not receiving full disclosure. SAG is being misleading. They are promising that every problem will be solved by this merger however they are providing no proof as to how.

Bruce Edwin: I understand. What is it that those have to gain at the top – do you feel, that are pushing for this merger to occur?

David Casselman: Many believe that there is a high level desire to put SAG, which has historically- aggressively negotiated, together with AFTRA, which has been less strident at the bargaining table, and by collectively putting them together creating a more compliant union.

Bruce Edwin: Interesting. Do you think this will be a long battle, this legal fight, or do you think it will go quickly?

David Casselman: No, I think it will go fairly quickly. This needs to be brought to the table within the next month or two, unless it is delayed by the Court, because that is the time limit on the proposed merger.

Bruce Edwin: That’s good to know. Thank you for your time.